While Professor Williams’ expertise lies in software, cybersecurity, health informatics and developing IT solutions, Professor Maeder’s experience lies in engineering as it relates to nursing and healthcare. “We complement each other well because Trish has a really strong systems theme, and I have a very strong technical bits-and-pieces focus,” he says.
The pair are working to create an intelligent overall surveillance system that can intervene to prevent problems before they occur. Processing this data would be automated in
real-time, looking for any warning signs to flag with a human operator or carer.
“But how can you visualise the data in a way that technicians or health people can look at it and say, ‘What does this mean?’ and decide what to do to help?” asks Professor Williams, whose team is now trying to solve that puzzle.
While smart homes sound expensive, there are potentially huge savings to be made by minimising hospitalisations, managing chronic diseases and increasing healthy lifespans. “People who live more active, more satisfying, happy, fulfilling lives are more economically engaged as well,” Professor Maeder explains. “It’s better to keep the highest quality of life for as long as possible and hope for a relatively rapid but gentle decline at the end.”
Professors Maeder and Williams are also involved with the ARC Research Hub for Digital Enhanced Living, working with colleagues at Deakin University in Victoria and more than a dozen companies, each of which is involved with individual pieces of the smart home puzzle. The pair are also collaborating with a developer to produce a prototype smart home at Flinders’ Tonsley campus, and say a basic system could be up and running within five years.
“Western society is ageing fast. We can’t just wait for it to happen; we need to be ready,” says Professor Maeder. “If you can maintain people in their homes, living happily in familiar surroundings without distress, without duress, it’s a much better life.”